Local Student Asks, “Does The Future Include Me?”


As part of our series, “The Recession Outside My  Window,” our guest writer is eighteen year old  Ashley Colombo, Sullivan County resident, grocery store clerk and full-time  Orange County Community College student (OCCC). “I absolutely love it at OCCC — have never enjoyed school more,” she says.  “I’m going to be majoring in psychology, English, and criminology, but don’t  have a clue what I want to do when I grow up.”)

When I was growing up I used to love dreaming about what I would be when I got older. Maybe a veterinarian, a teacher, doctor, a writer. My dreams and hopes were immeasurable. As I grew older,  I saw that many jobs were being lost; many people no longer had job security.  I became concerned about what I would do when I reached an  age where a decision must be made. Would my job choice be sufficient for me to  live somewhat comfortably and  have a sense of job security?

Then, I began thinking about our technological revolution and how dependent we are on it. I realized that many jobs will be lost due to this revolution. For instance, in the future, schools won’t be necessary. Kids will sit in their homes and have their lessons broadcast to them. Thus, custodians, school nurses, teacher’s aides, cafeteria ladies, administration, guidance counselors are just a few positions that won’t be necessary. I believe, literally, that hundreds and thousands of jobs will  be annihilated due to our dependence on technology.

I also thought about the  overwhelming amount of money we’re forced to spend on school  in order to gain access to  many  soon-to-be   nonexistent jobs.  What bothers me most about going to college  and possibly beyond, is that after we spend thousands upon thousands of dollars, we are not guaranteed a job in the field we have so painstakingly studied. I know that as technology is totally integrated into  our society,  all those college degrees and doctorates and those cute little paper diplomas with the shiny seals, will mean absolutely nothing.

We hope that the pretty piece of paper in that frame will buy us groceries and pay our bills but  too many of us will  fall into the ‘my job choice no longer exists’ category. That’s what faces us even as  we start our adult lives in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

It worries me that school costs so much in the first place.  It  makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.  Why must it be so hard to get ahead? We pay dearly for trying to make ourselves into something —  to better ourselves and to enrich our lives. What for? Why should I spend this money to try and make my life better, when in the end all it will do is knock my legs out from under me and take everything I have?

This seriously discouraged me about wanting to go back to school. I knew I had to, but did I really want to go through all of it just  to end up  coming home from being a greeter at a chain supermarket and  looking at the forsaken piece of framed paper hanging up on my wall,  knowing I was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt because of it?  It’s a repulsive vision of a future that will probably be the reality faced by most of my generation and the generations to come.

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(Breathing Note:  Please encourage our Guest Writers by clicking the very tiny, nearly invisible “comment”  link hidden in the tags and categories beneath Ashley’s commentary.  Breathing Is Political extends its heartfelt appreciation to Ashley for participating in our “View Outside My Window”  series.)

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8 thoughts on “Local Student Asks, “Does The Future Include Me?”

  1. unemployedrabbit

    It’s a depressing image, but I suspect one that is painfully true to life. I chose to continue my education as far as I could before the money issue became too huge to beat,because I like learning for learning’s sake. Job-wise, this hasn’t done me any favours, but I’ve seen plenty of people using the same education system to get ahead and we’re all stuck in the same place at the end. Something, surely, has to give.

  2. almostgraduated

    Dear Ashley,

    “When I was your age”…

    If it were not for the City University of New York
    (CUNY) system (I attended Lehman College), I would not have been able to go. It was virtually free. One paid a registration fee of about 200 or 400 dollars (in those days, a first class stamp was 3 cents, so perhaps that would translate into 3 thousand or 6 thousand now), and you bought your own books. The SUNY system was not much more expensive. This was 1968.

    Of course, I majored in Dance and Theater, so my earning prospects were near to zero when I graduated. Art was my savior, and it didn’t put food on the table.

    At the time (1972), we were still in Vietnam, Nixon had already removed us off the gold standard, and we were about to be hit with the famous first oil embargo in 1973. The Stock Market crashed from January 1973 THROUGH December 1974, inflation went from 3.4% to 12.3% and then continued up to 25% by 1975. The gdp went from a 7.2% growth rate, to a negative 2.1%, a 9.3% contraction. NYC (my home town) went bankrupt, and unlike the recent investment bank and insurance bailout, President Ford said to New York “Drop Dead” (of course he didn’t really say that, but NYC didn’t get any bailout money).

    The NY TIMES constantly ran articles on how college graduates were not going to find any jobs. I drove a cab for two years and ate rice and beans.

    I’m now almost 60 years old. I have no idea how I got here. The following thought is attributed to Buster Keaton on film making: “You just have to know the beginning and the end, the middle always seems to work itself out”.

    In that regard, we know we are born, and we know we die. The middle just works itself out.

    Even if college doesn’t directly prepare you to earn income, those four years are extremely important to spend in study and fellowship with your peers in that learning environment. Try not to run up debt, but keep learning and expanding. Try not to be crippled by worry. Let the physical strength of your youth give you hope enough to overcome whatever depressing reality is beating you. Open up, let go, commit yourself. Make mistakes and forgive yourself.

    As far as that piece of paper you will have hanging on the wall, I left after 3.5 years, very near to graduation, without the diploma. I’m still here. Be as good as you can be, and let the middle work itself out. Good luck!

  3. kathy

    I’m sorry you’re so pessimistic about your future….
    the future in general it seems. How sad that you don’t value education as some thing no one can ever take from you. What would you do with these years if you we not in a classroom? Have you made no new friends? Joined no clubs geared to your intrest?

    Granted, my perspective is that of a sixty something who didn’t have the opportunity to “follow my bliss”. That being the case feel free to ignore my ramblings but please remember you will never be quite this free of responsibilities again. No, the world you’ve been left is not perfect. Neither was the one left to my parents or grandparents.

    I wish you well.

  4. George

    Wow… an interesting perspective from both ends of the ‘age scale’. Someone in their late teens wondering what’s ahead and in a way asking questions that may not have concrete answers at this time but is going forward with her quest none-the-less. I believe she knows it isn’t all doom and gloom and then falling into the debilitating fear and helplessness that has gripped oh so many generations of years past.
    Then from the other end of the ‘age scale’ someone sixty-something who claims to have never been able to ‘follow their bliss’ in this lifetime. That is truly sad. I would like to offer this: if you are still breathing what are you waiting for? There is still time even if it is only one day. Tell the system to stick it, remove your shoes and feel the warm grass beneath your feet. Joseph Campbell may have said the quote you used above (Follow Your Bliss) but a most notable quote I like to use is from Wayne Dyer who said: “Don’t die with your music still in you.”
    I for one have had the great fortune to be able to open up to the world – to become aware – and take time daily to observe all that is around me. We have set up bird feeders and trimmed vegetation and trees to allow safe havens for all sorts of creatures – a safe haven to stop by and just Be. And in those moments when I myself step out from the world around me and retreat to the back yard havens where I can just Be, my whole essence begins to buzz with excitement at what I might be allowed to be a part of. And each day I am never disappointed.
    Let the world go on around me because in for those few daily moments in my world nothing ever goes wrong. My music springs forth and I find my bliss…
    Thank You for allowing me this time to share. May you All find what it is you seek.

  5. AshleyC

    Kathy-

    I’m not at all pessimistic about my future; in fact I’m quite excited about it. All that you state has nothing to do with the point that I am/was trying to make. I feel as if you are making me out to be quite bitter. I’m not at all. The fact of the matter is that my generation has to own up to more responsibility right now at this very point in our lives. We have most, if not all, the responsibilities of “adults”. The cost of living has increased so greatly that we now must sacrifice more then one would expect…
    No one knows what the future will bring. I hope it will be brighter days for everyone.

    I appreciate your feedback though. I have big dreams for myself that I hope to make a reality.

  6. AshleyC

    Unemployedrabbit-
    Good luck with your future endeavors.
    Hopefully one day we will all be able to get ahead.

    Almostgraduated-
    Thank you for you wishes. Good luck to you as well.

    George-
    Beautifully said. “No day but today.”

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